Smitherman, Geneva. “CCCC’s Role in the Struggle for Language Rights.” College Composition and    Communication, 50.3 (1999): 349-376.

  • In this historiographic retelling of language diversity controversies from CCC publications Smitherman retraces arguments about linguistic difference through the first 40 or so years of the organization.
  • S. claims that during the early years CCCC was a forum for debates about linguistic difference because Composition-Rhetoric and Linguistics were both laying claim to that territory . . . the land of language, correctness, form, and meaning.
  • S. draws attention to the tireless advocacy of Dr. James Sledd throughout the history of CCCC.  Though a linguist by training, Sledd tireless worked on the behalf of the linguistically marginalized and economically disenfranchised in order to argue that students had a right to their own linguistic identities despite being charged with learning the discourse of the academy.
  • S. foregrounds the educational reforms of the 1960s and 1970s – reforms meant to redress the “academic exclusion of and past injustices inflicted upon Blacks, Browns, women, and other historically marginalized groups” – and the assassination of Dr. MLK as micro and macro events that brought issues of race, class, and gender into focus for language teaching at the university level.
  • When linguistics split in the 1970s (the Cartesian/theoretical school of Chomsky vs. the socially constructed school of Joshua Fishman), CCCC followed the Fishman orientation (357).  As a result, some scholars (Sledd) recommended bidialecticalism as an initial move toward challenging the linguistic hegemony of SE.
  • By passing SRTOL, Smitherman argues that CCCC was addressing the increasingly heterogeneous nature of the writing classroom.  In the post-Vietnam, (post)Civil Rights era the student demographic changed dramatically.  SRTOL was a step toward recognizing that diversity of student identity as performed and lived through language.
  • Goals of SRTOL: 1) heighten consciousness of language attitudes; 2) promote the value of linguistic diversity; and 3) convey facts and information about language and language variation that would enable instructors to teach their non-traditional students – and ultimately all students – more effectively (359).
  • Discussion questions that frame SRTOL:

  • S. draws attention to Farrell’s article “IQ and Standard English” as a reminder that racist, ethnocentristic arguments about facility with standard linguistic structures and intelligence are still present.  She also notes that Farrell’s article was soundly rebutted by folks practicing in sociolinguistics (a la the Fishman school).
  • CCCC National Language Policy (1988):

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